State Senator Nate Boulton finished up his statewide 99 county tour this weekend, visiting Montgomery and Clarke County with stops in Red Oak and Osceola on Sunday. He’s the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate to complete what Iowa politicos call the “Full Grassley” (or, in this case, the “Full Boulton”).
The Des Moines senator began checking off counties on his statewide journey during his week-long announcement swing in May, starting with Louisa County, where he grew up in Columbus Junction. He’s slowly been touring every corner of the state since, keeping track of visits on a large map in his campaign office. Republican elected officials in Iowa often make a point of visiting every single county each year – Democrats have been trying to improve their standing in rural Iowa, with a couple gubernatorial hopefuls aiming for the statewide tour.
Boulton’s events in all 99 counties were a mixture of listening posts, hospital and community college tours, local activist get-togethers, campaign rallies, issue roundtables, small business meetings and voter meet-and-greets. Some were smaller affairs with a handful of farmers meeting with Boulton for coffee, while other events saw hundreds turn out for a major rally. Over 20 people attended Boulton’s meet-and-greet in the smallest county in the state, Adams County, in Corning.
Reaching out to voters in parts of the state where they don’t always see Democratic candidates show up was a key focus for the campaign.
“I grew up in a county where often Democrats felt left behind by the Democratic party, and after visiting every county in Iowa, it’s clear that the feeling of being left behind is still true for Iowans across our state,” Boulton told Starting Line. “It’s essential for our party to maintain relationships with voters in every county, rather than show up on a few television ads and mailers before Election Day and expect support.”
Trips like these for any candidate are always part listening, part persuading. Getting the candidate out in front of as many Iowans as possible in different settings helps flesh out policy arguments, gathers good stories to tell on the campaign trail and helps hone a message that might sound good on paper, but comes off differently in front of real people.
“The conversations I’ve had with Iowans across Iowa have not been drastically different – this urban/rural divide that people talk about evaporates when we focus on our shared values as Iowans,” Boulton said. “The things we value most: strong schools, protecting our natural resources, equality of opportunity, sustainable economic development, and safe and secure communities are important to every Iowan. The values my parents and grandparents in rural Iowa and my constituents in urban and suburban Iowa are the same, and our government needs to get back to prioritizing those shared values.”
Boulton finished up his 99 county tour in the home base of the person he hopes to take on and defeat in 2018. Clarke County is where Reynolds served as a county treasurer and later state senator before being picked as Terry Branstad’s running mate in 2010. Boulton now also has an extra talking point for his speech tonight at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Fall Gala, which will be one of the final major gatherings of the gubernatorial candidates before next June’s primary.
by Pat Rynard